tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Wed Mar 16 03:41:24 1994

Back to archive top level

To this year's listing

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

Re: Help, please

>> porgh lI'be' QaQ law' yab qal QaQ puS
>> 	(Can I do lI'be' useless adjectivally? Can adjectival verbs take be'?
>> 	If not, then lI'be'bogh porgh)
>I appreciate the responses I've seen so far, really; I do.  But the above
>translation is *exactly* the kind of thing that *completely* loses the
>meaning of the original idiom.  To translate "Better to be crippled in body
>than corrupt in mind" as "A useless body is more good; a corrupt mind is 
>less good" is to minimalize the statement.  The point is that *niether* of
>these states of being is desirable, but that, if these are the only two choices
>,*then and only then* is one better than the other.


Let's straighten one thing out right off the bat:  law'/puS
constructions are NOT intented to be translated literally.  "A
useless body is more good; a corrupt mind is less good" is a wholly
inappropriate translation of the Klingon.  Indeed, technically, it
isn't even correct.  law'/puS is a formula, which does not in any
way fit into the main-stream of Klingon grammar, and, as such,
cannot be translated to this level of literalness.  Let's look at a
simpler example:

'aj val law' Sa' val puS    "The admiral is smarter than the general."

Yes, to get the feel of it, the dictionary says that this kind of means
"The admiral's smartness is more, the general's smartness is less.", but
that's just to give you the feel of it.  If you wanted to say *that*
literally in Klingon, it would come out quite differently:

law' 'aj valghach,  puS Sa' valghach

Then we could argue until dawn about exactly how to use -ghach but that's
besides the point.  If nothing else, the subject certainly needs to follow
the verb.  No, the point is that law'/puS is a formula and shouldn't be
disected beyond that.  Which means that the first translation above really
is the right one.

There is actually exactly ONE canonical use of law'/puS (at least, to my
knowledge), and it is the one someone (Amy, I think), brought up, but I'm
not sure the quote is accurate.  I had wanted to mention it myself but I
haven't had the time to pull my tape and double check, but I'm pretty sure
it is closer to:

QamtaHvIS Hegh qaq law' tortaHvIS yIn qaq puS

    "Better to die on our feet than live on our knees"

The original contained a couple errors.  The final q in the second qaq is
unpronounced (almost sounds like yInqa' puS, but that wouldn't make sense).
I also seem to recall they blow at least one of the manditory -taH's to go
with the -vIS.  I think he actually said torvIS.  While interpreting this
sentence, let's note that, while both Hegh and yIn can be verbs ("die" and
"live") they also can be nouns ("death" and "life").  The noun form of
Hegh is given in the addendum, presumably specificly because of its use in
this line.  So don't be confused into thinking you can put any old thing
in the A/B slots; they really want nouns.  The more literal translation of
this would be:

QamtaHvIS Hegh qaq law' tortaHvIS yIn qaq puS

    "Death while standing is preferable to life while kneeling"

And, for those who are paying attention, my HolQeD column which
referenced this sentence was erroneous in that I transcribed it as QaQ,
not qaq.  It is virtually impossible to be sure which q/Q the typical
actor is saying, so I think I can be excused, but, having since
encountered qaq, I now agree that that is the more likely intention.

The point here, though, is that this is EXACTLY the sense which is being
sought:  differentiating between two undesirable choices.  I see little
reason to go off rewording this kind of thing.


Back to archive top level